A MAN who police say had white paint on his face and clothing when arrested in Ballymena near where sectarian graffiti was daubed on several buildings – including a Presbyterian Church – claimed he had been decorating in his home, a court heard.
Ciaran McKeown (25), with an address listed as High Street, Ballymena, is accused of five counts of criminal damage with two of the charges alleging he ‘painted sectarian graffiti’ on a wall belonging to West Presbyterian Church and the Tower Centre shopping centre.
He is also charged with painting sectarian graffiti on a wall and a garage door and putting paint on a car.
Regarding the same date – April 8 this year – the defendant is also accused of stealing four bottles of wine worth £34 from ‘Wineflair’.
At the time of the graffiti blitz police made reference to Ballymena Courthouse being one of the buildings were slogans were painted, however, McKeown is not currently charged in relation to that location.
The defendant appeared at court via video link from prison where he has been on remand since April.
At Ballymena Magistrates Court, sitting in Antrim, a police officer objected to bail saying at 10.45pm on April 8 police received numerous reports of “sectarian graffiti” being daubed on a number of buildings in the Albert Place area of Ballymena.
She said the slogans made “multiple references to CIRA, the numbers ’32’ and also ‘Free PoWs.”
The officer said police located the defendant in the area where he appeared intoxicated and had “white paint on his clothing and on his face” and he was arrested.
The policewoman said that when interviewed McKeown denied the allegations saying he was asleep in his flat at the time the incidents happened.
The officer said McKeown told police the paint was on his face because he had been “decorating” his flat.
The officer said when police went to McKeown’s flat they spotted the slogan ‘CIRA’ painted on a wall in the bathroom.
Objecting to bail the policewoman said that due to the sectarian nature of the graffiti it had “caused tension across the political divide”.
She said the defendant has 120 convictions.
A defence barrister said there may be a link to the theft of four bottles of wine and the criminal damage.
He said McKeown was “not someone who has any political ideology” but has an “unfortunate history of mental health problems” and has been on anti-depressants since the age of 15; has ADHD and “polysubstance misuse”.
The barrister added: “In case the court might have some lurking suspicions that it might be dealing with somebody who has any kind of extreme views, can I endeavour to put that to be bed. That is not the case.”
Regarding any “possible risk” to McKeown, the lawyer said he was unaware of any “threats” being made.
The bail application was made by the defence on the grounds of a ‘delay’ in the case but District Judge Nigel Broderick refused bail saying the defendant had an extensive criminal record.
The judge added that the prosecution said a ‘decision’ relating to the case is due in two weeks time and he was not satisfied there had been a delay. The case was adjourned to September 17.